Look past party politics for solutions that make sense

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Early last year, my wife and I had to make a court appearance in Billings over a minor fender bender. While our case was easily decided, we were last on the docket. As we sat and awaited our turn, one individual after another rose for the court and faced the prospect of jail time. Their crimes? Driving on a license that had been suspended for no reason other than a debt to that same court.

Think of the perverse disincentives in play here. Commit a minor violation with a fine, fail to pay that fine in timely fashion, have your means to pay said fine limited by the revocation of your license, drive yourself to work anyway, go to jail and likely lose your job altogether.

While a number of us may not have any trouble paying such traffic fines, those who such practices impact most are those with the least means available to them. It creates a disproportionate impact on those already struggling with poverty.

When I ran for office in 2018, I made it part of my platform to put a stop to this specific practice. Fortunately, despite my defeat, Rep. Casey Knudsen (R – Malta) is leading the charge in the current legislative session to put a stop to using a driver’s license as a tool for debt collection by the state. Endorsing him in his efforts are two very divergent activist groups.

At a candidate forum, when I said that the ACLU had done “good things,” my primary opponent David Howard disparaged them, calling them a communist organization. That same evening, he touted his Americans for Prosperity voting record. Now both of those organizations are backing Rep. Knudsen’s effort here.

This example clearly demonstrates that partisan rhetoric on activism and policy is overly simplistic and too often misleading. We all need to look past party politics for the solutions that simply make sense. I commend Rep. Knudsen for doing so and hope we see more such initiative in the 2019 Legislative Session.


Andrew Forcier